I Pay Road Tax.com, the website founded by Carlton Reid two years ago to help correct the erroneous assumption on the part of many motorists that they pay for the roads they drive on through something called ‘road tax,’ has won another battle in its efforts to rid the world of the misleading term, with motoring organisation the AA now agreeing to use either the correct term, Vehicle Excise Duty, or the words ‘car tax,’ instead.
Road construction and maintenance is paid for out of general taxation rather than the monies raised through Vehicle Excise Duty, and as the I Pay Road Tax website points out, the term ‘road tax’ itself was phased out in 1937.
Winston Churchill had first expressed concerns about official use of the phrase a dedicate earlier, saying that “It will be only a step from this for them [motorists] to claim in a few years the moral ownership of the roads their contributions have created."
AA President Edmund King was an early fan of I Pay Road Tax, and the keen cyclist revealed early last year that he owned one of its jerseys, which he described as “ironic, iconic and probably iconoclastic.”
Now, the organisation that he heads has joined others such as The Plain English campaign, Which?Car magazine, the DVLA, and the Post Office in consigning the term to the linguistic scrapheap.
As before and after screenshots on the I Pay Road Tax website show, the relevant page on the AA website has now had the references to ‘road tax’ that sit alongside mentions of Vehicle Excise Duty changed to ‘car tax.’
While to some the I Pay Road Tax campaign may seem little more than a pedantic insistence on use of the correct term and nothing more, there is at its core a very serious issue.
As is explained on the campaign's website, “The distinction between ‘road tax’ and VED is very important, much more important than most people think.
“It’s possible that lives have been lost because of the use of an antique phrase. Some motorists believe ‘road tax’ pays for roads so cyclists, as freeloaders at best, tax-dodgers at worst, shouldn’t really be on “their” roads at all.
“This sometimes leads to ugly and dangerous aggression against cyclists, with some motorists taking the ownership of the roads fallacy a little too literally.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.